Gestational Diabetes Recipes and Meal Ideas

Ideas to Make Meal Planning Less of a Hassle

Pregnant woman making salad
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Pregnancy can make eating a little bit more complicated—while certain foods should be avoided altogether, weird cravings, indecisiveness, and nausea also can make creating a meal plan challenging. Add gestational diabetes to the equation and you might be feeling extremely overwhelmed.

The good news is that women with gestational diabetes can eat relatively the same way women without gestational diabetes can.

The only significant difference is that you need to be mindful of carbohydrates—this is the nutrient that impacts blood sugars the most. Foods that contain carbohydrates, such as fruit, milk, yogurt, starchy vegetables (corn, potatoes, peas), sweets, beans, and grains (cereal, bread, oatmeal, pasta) will need to be portioned and modified. 

Understanding Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes usually is a temporary condition in pregnancy in which the mother's body cannot maintain normal blood sugar levels.

In order to control blood sugar, women with gestational diabetes need to follow a carbohydrate controlled diet alone or in combination with insulin. They may be asked to use exchange listscount carbohydrates, or follow a specific diet prescribed by their healthcare team. It's important to follow your doctor's or certified diabetes educator's recommendations so that you can keep your blood sugars on target.

Tight blood sugar control will protect the health of the baby. There are certain factors that will need to be taken into consideration when meal planning too.

Factors That Influence Meal Planning

  • The need to maintain normal or tight blood sugar levels.
  • Your sensitivity and reactivity to carbohydrates may increase as the pregnancy progresses. You may seem to be more sensitive to carbs at certain times of the day. Many people with diabetes need to reduce carbohydrates in the morning.
  • Many mothers-to-be have insulin to contend with (and are new to insulin).
  • Pregnancy with diabetes can make big demands on time which can influence your ability to prepare home-made meals.

Because of these factors, many women find it helpful to keep recipes simple and to be as repetitive as possible with meals that work for both your lifestyle and your blood sugar.

For example, if you find meals that work for breakfast, stick to those meals and cycle that menu. If you find a daily menu that seems to produce good blood sugar results, repeat it. This way, you only have to look up nutritional data and do extra math when eating a meal that is out of the norm.

What Type of Meal Plan Will I Have to Follow?

The amount of carbohydrates you can eat per meal will depend on your blood sugar control, weight, activity level, and blood sugar targets. You will likely receive a meal plan that allows for a certain amount of carbohydrates per meal. Most women with gestational diabetes are given about 30-45 g of carbohydrates per meal and 15-30 g per snack (sometimes more or less depending on the aforementioned variables). You’ll also want to add lean protein and healthy fat to your meals to balance blood sugar and boost nutrition.

Good Breakfast Combinations

Breakfast can be the most challenging meal. Many women with gestational diabetes struggle with blood sugar levels in the morning, and it might seem like any carbohydrate can make our blood sugar levels skyrocket. Good control at breakfast can make it easier to maintain blood sugar throughout the rest of the day.

Mothers-to-be often eat the same food every morning when they find something that works. Depending on where your blood sugars are, you can vary your meal options. 

  • 2 eggs with 1 whole grain corn tortillas, 1/3 avocado, and salsa
  • 2 eggs (hard boiled) with 1-2 servings of whole grain toast
  • A 2-egg omelet with vegetables with 1 ¼ cup strawberries
  • 1 smoothie: ½ banana, 2 strawberries, 1 cup almond milk, 1 teaspoon nut butter, 1 tablespoon flaxseed
  • ½ cup cooked oatmeal (made with water) with 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts and ¾ cup blueberries
  • 1 low-fat plain Greek yogurt with 1 cup raspberries and 2 Tablespoons silvered almonds

Breakfast Recipes

Other breakfast recipes include:

Lunch Combinations

Keep yourself satisfied until dinner with some lean protein, vegetables, and whole grains.

  • Salad: Greens, veggies, 1/2 cup of beans and dressing with a small toasted whole grain roll

  • Whole Grain Wraps: Greens and 4 oz grilled chicken or shrimp wrapped in one medium whole grain tortilla with pickles and mustard, plus one serving of fruit

  • Whole Grain Pita: Stuffed with a serving of protein (fish, lean beef, low-fat cheese, chicken, fresh turkey), greens, onion, tomato, avocado, and 1/4 cup shelled sunflower seeds

Dinner Combinations

Dinner combinations should be rich in non-starchy vegetables which are rich in fiber and low in carbohydrates.

  • Grilled turkey burger on 1 whole grain bun with ½ cup roasted sweet potatoes and a large salad
  • Steamed, grilled or stir-fried non-starchy vegetables with 2 servings of protein and 1 cup of brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat pasta

Dinner Recipes

Snack Combinations

Keeping your snacks to about 15-30 grams of carbohydrates will help to control your blood sugar. 

  • 1 oz low-fat cheese with 5 whole grain crackers or 1 brown rice cake
  • 1 small cut apple with 1 oz of low-fat cheese or 1 tablespoon nut butter
  • 3 cups air-popped popcorn with 1/4 cup nuts
  • 20 diabetes friendly snacks

Snack Recipes

Here are some ideas for snacks to make ahead in bulk. Add crackers or tortilla chips to obtain the necessary carbohydrates desired per snack. Eating every two to three hours will help to keep your blood sugar levels stable and avoid lows.

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